Park is on the right track
JI-SUNG Park is hoping he won't have to nip back to Korea again to recharge his confidence batteries this season. Journeys back to Seoul have topped up the United midfielder's self- belief over the years. But having fought his way back to fitness following a swollen knee, the 28-year-old believes his Old Trafford season is just starting and he is upbeat again. Park's hero status back home in Korea is more manic than that reserved for the likes of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. He is revered in Asia but in Europe and his work base in Manchester, Park is not in the superstar bracket. He is an admired Old Trafford foot-soldier but a celebrity leader in South Korean football. However, Park, who is expected to start in Sir Alex Ferguson's XI to play Spurs tonight in the Carling Cup, finds benefit in the contrasting situations. With his third World Cup finals to look forward to in South Africa, the hype is building in Korea. "There is a lot of pressure on me back home because I play for United. Now I am the only player from Asia playing in the big four in England," he said. "I can only do what I can do on the pitch. I am just one of 11 players. I cannot think about what people say about me and how much they expect. I just concentrate on what I do. "I have to blank it out because sometimes the pressure is intense. If I lived in Korea it would be even more. There would be a lot of pressure on me and I couldn't escape it. I am far away from my country so I am a bit isolated. I can get on with my job in England. "I cannot really see first-hand how the people back home are reacting to me. Of course, I can read things on the internet but it is not like it is happening all around you and you see and hear people praising or criticising you. "It is a totally different feeling being in England. It is a lot calmer atmosphere for me. Life is quiet and I can concentrate on my football here. "I enjoy the fans back home in Korea. Sometimes if I feel a bit depressed, I go back to Korea, everyone is shouting for you, and you are a hero so it can get you up again. "It changes my mindset sometimes when I go back home and witness that adulation. It gives me energy. It helps me. It is good to go home to help me mentally. "When I get frustrated or depressed, a chance to get back to Korea and the people's reaction to me builds up my confidence again. "You realise you are a good player again and a fine person and I come back to England with more energy and confidence. The treatment I get back home helps me at Old Trafford. "I don't really want to be a famous football player. I don't look for that back home and I don't have it as an ambition here at United. All I want to do is become a better player. That is my ambition. "It is all about being a better player. I don't want the famous person's life. I don't really enjoy that that much. It is a good mix for me to have it quieter here in Manchester and then the excitement of back home in Korea." In his quest to become a more all-round player, Park is working towards adding a goal threat to his game. His Old Trafford account reads 12 goals in 108 games since being signed from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2005. "I need to improve my finishing. I need more goals," Park added. "I study the other players in training, particularly the forwards, and I look at how they are scoring goals. What do they do when they finish a chance? I know I can get better and will get better personal results. "I have no need to watch DVDs because I can see some of the best strikers in the world every day here at Carrington. "The likes of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and Ryan Giggs - I can see it live every day. I don't have to sit in front of a TV to study it. "They are more confident and composed in front of goal than I am. They are cool when an opportunity comes along. I tend to get a bit excited when a chance arises for me and I hurry up. "I have to stop rushing things. I have to be composed in my mind and slow things down. I think that will make me a better finisher. "In training I feel a lot more confident about how that side of my game is going. I think I am capable of scoring eight to ten goals in a season. I believe I can do that if I have a full season free of injuries." Injury-free campaigns have not been easy for Park since moving from Holland. This season he has missed 12 matches since his right knee ballooned after the Manchester derby in September. The problem appears to be a legacy of two previous different operations on the knee but Park now believes United's medical staff have it under control. "The knee seemed to swell if I was getting tired in matches," Park explained. "It seems to be that when your fitness levels are low you put more pressure on the knee and the muscles around it. That is the dangerous time. "I have been working on a programme with weights, a bicycle and the treadmill in the gym to build the strength in the muscles around the knee. "That has helped me and I am okay now. The swelling has come down and it isn't a problem. "It has taken longer than I wanted but it is behind me now and I can look forward to trying to play more games. That is what I want." The 2010 World Cup will be back in the news again this Friday with the draw for the finals. But Park knows that United come first. "The media are always talking about the World Cup so you cannot escape it," he said. "But you have to be playing well for your club. You want to be going into the World Cup feeling very good in yourself. You want to feel strong and confident. "If you want to have that feeling then you have to show it in all United's games. "If you end the season winning something you will be going to South Africa on a high and feeling good. You cannot afford to let up. "I want to go there having contributed a lot to United and hopefully having won something this season."
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